Border forces officials could strike on pushback plans for rubber dinghies in the English Channel

Border force officials could call a strike against Priti Patel’s “morally reprehensible” plans to push back rubber dinghies into the English Channel, a union said.

The Home Office faces legal action over proposals to run small boats at sea, a tactic activists say could put lives at risk.

The news comes after figures compiled by the PA news agency showed 28,300 people crossed the Strait of Pas de Calais on small boats in 2021, triple the number in 2020.

The government continues to consider various options to tackle the problem and has invited the companies to a deal-related nondisclosure meeting in the hope of hearing “innovative ideas.”

The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), whose members include around 80% of the border forces officers who would be responsible for implementing the “refoulements”, and the charity Care4Calais have filed a request for judicial review on the repression policy.

They intend to challenge the legality of the reorientation of boats out of British waters to France.

The union said the policy “violates international law and is morally wrong,” and could put border force officials at risk of prosecution.

Even if the court’s request was unsuccessful, the union did not rule out industrial action and officials refusing to carry out the refoulements.

PCS Secretary General Mark Serwotka said: “The legality of the pushback policy is in serious question, and it is right that the court decides whether it is illegal to push back boats from the Channel.

“We cannot have a situation where our members might be open to potential civil and criminal prosecution for the implementation of a policy that they do not agree with and know is not safe.

“Although we hope for a positive outcome of the legal proceedings, there is no doubt that the PCS strongly opposes this policy, for moral and humanitarian reasons, and we will not rule out industrial action to prevent its implementation. work.”

Clare Moseley, founder of the refugee charity Care4Calais, said: “The proposed policy removes the UK’s duty under national and international law to save lives at sea.

“It is for good reason that this duty is a cornerstone of international maritime law. If it is eroded, I fear it will allow the UK to devalue lives at sea.

“This risks opening the doors to the horrific scenes we see in the Mediterranean,” she added.

The Interior Ministry continues to explore various options in its attempt to stop the crossings of thousands of people from France on board small boats.

Despite the Home Secretary’s pledge to make crossings an ‘infrequent occurrence’ by spring 2020, more than 36,000 people have made it to the UK in the past two years.

Facing another year with thousands of level crossings, the Home Office invited companies to an event later this month in hopes of gleaning new ideas on how to tackle the crisis.

Participants will be bound by a nondisclosure agreement and then invited to ‘share their innovative ideas, new approaches and potential solutions that can be legally deployed in the UK’.

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